Parliamentarism Combatting a Drug Menace

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Alexander Konkov – Rethinking Russia director

The State Duma has once again demonstrated its capability to play an active role in the international arena and set its own agenda when it comes to determining country’s foreign policy priorities. The event that took place in the Russian Parliament’s lower chamber December 4 was a non-routine one. The International conference “Parliamentarians Against Drugs” was held for the first time. It was attended by law-makers from 43 countries who realize the threat and, consequently, the need to counter it by joint efforts. While some states are legalizing these or that kinds of drugs, Russia’s initiative on elaborating new international approaches to consolidating legal framework for fighting drug trafficking and consumption, preventive measures and drug addiction treatment is coming into sharp focus. So, a united front of law-makers (who, basically, can decide to legalize something) is being formed. They realize their responsibility for physical and social health of their societies and do not want to accept opportunistic compromises of drug cartels’ lobby. This is done as counter to this lobby in particular on the cross-border, really global basis.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime supported the event. Its Executive Director, the United Nations Under Secretary General Yuri Fedotov delivered his speech. Besides, Director-General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Executive Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross Peter Maurer, UNAIDS Regional Director or Eastern Europe and Central Asia Vinay P. Saldanha, Secretary General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Rashid Alimov and representatives of other international organizations took part in the conference.

In addition to the Speaker of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin, heads of parliaments of five more countries addressed the audience. They emphasized the need to promote parliamentary cooperation, that can now become relevant and effective, to combat a drug menace.

Russian Foreign and Health Ministers Sergey Lavrov and Veronika Skvortsova told the participants of the conference about the significance of the drug problem and Russia’s priorities and achievements in solving it. Leaders of all State Duma factions regardless of their political views jointly supported the development of the parliamentary dimension of the international cooperation in the sphere of countering drugs.

Law-makers discussed the issues of improving legislative regulation in the sphere of illegal drug trafficking, modern approaches to the treatment and rehabilitation of drug-dependents and the role of NGOs in combatting a drug menace. Following the results of the conference a joint declaration was adopted. It emphasizes how important the contribution of law-makers from all over the world to combatting drug menace is, including well-timed adoption of laws. The document also pays attention to the role of media, Internet community, public figures, intellectuals, sportsmen in preventing drug abuse and promoting healthy lifestyle and brings into focus the significance of the family values to nurturing a healthy generation. It was decided to hold these conferences annually and the next one will take place in Ecuador in 2018.

The Russian Federation has always been treating illegal drug trafficking as a key threat to the whole world, as a problem that can be solved through the lens of the international relations, and, consequently, classifies it as one of its foreign policy priorities. Russia’s National Security Strategy to 2020, Foreign Policy Concept and other key documents determining country’s interest in the international arena contain information about the necessity to fight drug trafficking. The fact that parliamentary diplomacy is joining the battle against drug abuse, on the one hand, shows that it complies with the tasks that the country is now facing. On the other hand, this expands the horizons of parliamentarism as such: it is growing out of intrastate law-making and shows potential for solving supranational, global problems. Obviously, such capabilities will be discovered in different spheres of international relations. The question is how quickly other centers of decision-making will be able to react to this, as well as how much interested in this they will be.

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